Weinberg's List: 50 Best Horror Films (2000 -- 2009)

This idea began, as all great ideas do these days, as a discussion over the Twitter wires. At first the question was this: "What is the best horror film of the last ten years?"

I received dozens of great responses, but was distracted by an entertainingly civil argument with several people over whether or not Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth qualifies as a horror film. (I say it does, which is kind of a spoiler. Let's just say Pan's Labyrinth made my Top 10.) So with the assistance of the Twitter gallery (and the inestimable help of my pal @williambgoss), I offer a completely subjective (yet hopefully intelligent) list:


The Top 50 Horror Films, 2000 to 2009


Countdown: 50 - 41


50. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006): "Bringing a quietly artistic taste of teenaged sexual politics to a sub-genre that's generally disinterested in anything resembling brains or subtext, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is what we call a 'thinking man's slasher flick.'" -- full review

49. The Devil's Chair (2007): "If you're someone who's sitting down for a full-bore extra-gooey horror flick like The Devil's Chair, you can take comfort in the fact that you're being manipulated by some storytellers who love the same flicks you do." -- full review

48. The Broken (2008): "Even if you do figure out where the horror is coming from well before the characters do, you'll probably be quite pleased that it's not just the same ol' slasher stuff." -- full review

47. Dark Water (2005): "Slow-paced yet never boring, sober and serious, but certainly not drab. The settings, New York's dilapidated Roosevelt Island and one startlingly huge apartment complex, are pitch-perfect: gothic, domineering, and quietly unpleasant." -- full review

46. Splinter (2008): "There's nothing all that new about the plot of Splinter, but I don't think I've ever seen a monster that works quite like this one. And I'd like to see some more." -- full review

45. Hatchet (2006): "The guys who grew up worshiping at the altar of Myers, Voorhees, and Krueger are now old enough to make their own horror movies. And a few of those movies are really quite entertaining. Hatchet is one of 'em." -- full review

44. The Others (2001): "Simply a fantastic campfire tale of a movie, delivered with impeccable style and solid sense of outright creepiness." -- full review

43. The Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001): "Proof positive that Hollywood doesn't own exclusive rights to the 'Enjoyable B-Movie.'" -- full review

42. Cloverfield (2008): "If Cloverfield was inspired by 9/11 the way the original Gojira was inspired by the decimation of Hiroshima -- I guess each culture tries to defeat its fears (and painful memories) through artistic expression. Plus, monsters usually 'work' as a pretty entertaining metaphor." -- full review

41. Isolation (2005): "Does not know the meaning of the phrase 'comic relief,' and I found it a refreshing change of pace to squirm through a proudly disturbing little horror nugget without being subjected to ironic self-mocking and/or pointlessly desperate 'jokey' material." -- full review

Countdown: 40 - 31

40. 30 Days of Night (2007): "A blissfully mean-spirited and aggressively creepy terror tale, and one that's not content to simply rest on its one good concept." -- full review

39. The Signal (2007): "Wedged into this wonderfully bleak misadventure is a story about a few characters you actually care about -- and that really does help a whole lot." -- full review

38. Dance of the Dead (2008): "It's fast and funny, sick and sweet, geeky and gory. Basically, a whole lot of fun." -- full review

37. Open Water (2003): "Has the feel of someone's home video footage, and by the time the truly terrifying moments of Shark Encounter kicks in, you'll be stunned to see how involved you are in what still feels like 'home video footage.'" -- full review

36. Slither (2006): "There is a distinct sub-genre of horror flicks that aim to balance William Castle-style creepiness with a self-aware sense of snark, and Slither manages to deliver cheery chuckles and bloody bedlam in equal measure." -- full review

35. Paranormal Activity (2007): "The horror genre sees a fresh coat of paint applied to an impressively old-fashioned ghost story, resulting in a low-budget winner that every horror geek should try to check out." -- full review

34. Grace (2009): "Covers the three essential bases of indie horror: It's scary, it's smart, and it pushes a few boundaries." -- full review

33. The Midnight Meat Train (2008): "Manages to maintain the sly sense of dread that permeates the best of Barker's horror tales." -- full review

32. Dog Soldiers (2002): "It's great to see an import like this make such a big splash with horror fans. We're a patient lot, and we really do get so little to cheer about." -- full review

31. The Burrowers (2008): "Goes the extra mile by asserting that the 'extinction' of the old west may have had some decidedly nasty repercussions on a biological level." -- full review

Countdown: 30 - 21

30. Sauna (2008): "A crisp, creepy and very effective period-piece horror tale that deals with the demarcation of the national boundaries between Russia and Sweden. Yeah, so it's not exactly Scream 4." -- full review

29. The Children (2008): "A solid balance between set-up, conflict, and horrific execution; surprisingly crisp work in the departments of score, editing, and cinematography; and an admirable focus on keeping the threat both vague and urgent." -- full review

28. The Living and the Dead (2006): "Bizarre, chilling and strangely hypnotic." -- full review

27. Dawn of the Dead (2004): "It's fair to say that Romero's Dawn will never be surpassed, and that's probably true. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a spiffy new souped-up version, given that it's delivered in winning style." -- full review

26. The Loved Ones (2009): "Works as both a 'scream 'n' squeal' style horror flick, but it also presents a crafty little 'race against the clock' sort of kidnapping thriller." -- full review

25. Carriers (2009): "A consistently challenging and almost pervasively downbeat story about how it's not the nerves or the eyesight that's the last to go: It's the humanity." -- full review

24. Hostel (2005) // Hostel Part 2 (2007): "In addition to being 'about' nasty jolts, bare breasts, and goopy gore, the Hostel flicks are also about the ways in which we use the bodies of other people, and how it's rarely done in a wholesome or unselfish fashion." -- full review // full review

23. The Ruins (2008): "An impressively harsh, unexpectedly dark, and admirably expeditious little terror tale. And it's better than the book." -- full review
 
22. Teeth (2007): "Offers enough meaty subtext to fill three semesters and it does so in a shocking, humorous and strangely compassionate fashion." -- full review

21. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003): [My review has been lost to the sands of time, but this is a seriously creepy Korean flick that was later remade as The Uninvited. See it!]

Countdown: 20 - 11

20. The Mist (2007): "Darabont clearly feels no shame in delivering a white-knuckle monster movie, but he's smart enough to do so in a crafty, creepy, and literate fashion." -- full review

19. High Tension (2003): "Proves to be quite the dastardly dark and entertaining jolt-fest ... if, of course, you don't mind your 'cat & mouse' thrillers a little on the 'outlandishly gory' side." -- full review

18. Shaun of the Dead (2004): [I never officially reviewed this movie, but it doesn't really matter. We all love it.]

17. Grindhouse (2007): "The full Grindhouse experience is sort of like a gigantic ice cream sundae for old-school genre film enthusiasts." -- full review

16. Saw (2004): "A cult classic waiting to happen for those who like their horror movies dark, smart, twisted and hard." -- full review

15. Trick 'r Treat (2007): "This nifty little anthology may have lost out on its theatrical release, but at least it can take solace in the fact that it'll be re-played on countless October evenings." -- full review

14. 28 Days Later (2002) // 28 Weeks Later (2007) [Yes, another 2-in-1 semi-cheat on my part, but both films are quite bleakly entertaining in appreciably different ways.] -- full review // full review

13. The Devil's Backbone (2001): "As a metaphor for Spain's war scars, as a rumination on the true definition of what a ghost really is, and as an effortlessly entertaining story about friendship, loyalty, and guilt - this movie simply resonates with satisfying ideas." -- full review

12. The House of the Devil (2009): "For those who have fond memories of low-key '70s devil chillers that focused on mood and atmosphere over sex and splatter, I'm betting this flick will go down quite smoothly." -- full review

11. The Descent (2005): "The second half of The Descent is packed with slick surprises, shocking jolts, gruesome gore, and intermittently unbearable tension." -- full review

Countdown: 10 - 1

10. Martyrs (2008): "May be one of the most ferocious horror films ever made -- but Martyrs is also quite effectively chilling and consistently disturbing ... frankly I think it's one of the most fascinating pieces of 'hardcore' horror cinema you'd ever want to see." -- full review

09. The Host (2006): "A smart, funny, creepy, and frequently exciting monster epic packed with strong effects, solid action scenes, several colorful characters, and (best of all) a whole lot of random chompings." -- full review

08. [REC] (2007) // [REC] 2 (2009): [My last 2-in-1 cheat, but c'mon. These two go together like a skull and crossbones.] -- full review // full review

07. The Orphanage (2007): "Strikes a fantastic balance between well-earned chills and strangely heart-touching emotion. (And what an ending!)" -- full review

06. Let the Right One In (2008): "Not only does this fantastic little import add a lot of new color to the "vampire flick," but it also turns out to be one of the strangest, stickiest, and (yes) sweetest horror movies I've seen in ten years." -- full review

05. Frailty (2001): "Works in a dark, gothic, and joyously hypnotic style - one that's painfully absent from most modern horror flicks" -- full review

04. Inside (2007): "Unrelenting, brutal and stunningly violent. It's also very well-crafted, powerful, creepy and scary on a murky primal level." -- full review

03. May (2002): "It's hard to say which is more impressive: that May deftly juggles gruesome horror, bizarrely touching romance, pitch black humor and heart-wrenching tragedy with nary a misstep - or that everything on display is presented courtesy of a filmmaker working on his first feature film." -- full review

02. Session 9 (2001): [Another old review that seems to have disappeared, so here's one, improv-style: one of the best "haunted building" movies I've ever seen, and it just gets better with repeat viewings. Great cast, vibe, script, style, etc. I adore this flick, and I know several horror buffs who feel the same way.]

01. Pan's Labyrinth (2006): Yep, not only do I consider it a horror film, but it's also one of the most interesting, challenging, and insightful ones I've ever seen. Call it a dark fantasy, an off-kilter adventure, a wartime coming-of-age tale, or a straightforward dramatic piece if you like (it's all those things), but I'd still call Pan's Labyrinth a beautiful piece of horror cinema, a magical genre mash-up that can be savored like truly fine art. But is also scary and has monsters.


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